April 21, 2016

Feeling One Step Behind The Technology Curve



credit: wikipedia
An enduring image from Star Trek: moving at warp speed. Whether from the original TV show, one of the spin-offs, or from all the movies that boldly went where no man had gone before, warp speed was always available to escape something, or get to a destination in record time.

The real world often feels to me like things are moving at this fictional warp speed. Just when I get comfortable with one new piece of technology, there is something new that is faster or more efficient. Desktop computers gave way to laptops years ago. Then, for about two or three years, tablets were the rage. Almost as quickly, smartphones with larger screens had enough computing power to leave a 10 year old computer in the dust.

The push to get an antenna to pick up local digital signals barely made a ripple before streaming video took over. HD radio never had a chance even if the sound was better than FM. Cable cord cutting is so common-place to not be worth a mention. A 40" TV screen is marketed for small apartments.

Read a newspaper? Really? Why? Everything is free, or almost so, on the Internet. And that news and information is instant, not printed last night before landing on your doorstep (or bushes).

Remember the exciting day when your family bought a 26 volume encyclopedia to help with schoolwork? 

I was thinking back to some of technological changes in the last 20-30 years of my life and I realized something: I was always at least one step behind:

1) During my career as a market researcher I had to construct questionnaires for respondents to answer, either in person or over the phone. These were usually on legal-sized paper, anywhere from ten to twelve pages in length. While the world had begun to shift to a computer to handle this task, I insisted in carrying my hand-written yellow legal pad notes to a woman who typed everything up. Even though she made a few mistakes every time that required a re-do, I continued to avoid computers for this task for several years after it would have made sense to do so.


2) I believed Beta would outlast VHS. How else do I explain boxes of taped TV shows and movies that couldn't be played because no one manufactured Beta machines after the VHS format won that battle? I picked Beta after the battle for supremacy was well underway. Darn it, they were going to prove my choice was right. Not so much. Oh, I finally dumped the last of the VHS tapes a year ago when we moved. 

3) Years after most folks had ditched vinyl records for CDs, I continued to insist on sticking with my scratched, fingerprint-smudged, large, black LPs. I was in radio and that's what I used to play on the air. That's where music was found! Until it wasn't. 

4) Streaming music services, like Pandora, made even CD's seem unnecessary. But, ever on the lookout for the latest trends, I finally bought an Ipod when the world had already decided recorded music was passe. I probably spent months transferring hundreds of hours of music from CDs to the nano Ipod. Now, I rarely use it.

5) There was little disagreement that flat screen TVs produced a better picture, Well before HD became a reality, television manufacturers had shifted from producing the huge box-shaped sets with the slightly curved screens. Never one to rush into a trend, my family and I lived with with the old TV until everything looked a little green around the edges. When finally ready to make a change, I leaped into the past with a 32" flat screen TV. Well, it was bigger than the 28" version we had used for years.

6) Don't even get me started on smartphones. I used a flip phone until the flip part broke off. Then, the only real choice was a phone several sizes too big for my pockets. I even stuck with a pager long past its "no one has one of those anymore" stage. 

I am sure you have examples, like mine, where you have found yourself on the wrong side of technology. Has it ever really mattered? Was the quality of your work or life negatively affected? But, now that you have been dragged into the present would you ever want to go back?

By the way, Verizon, I know I have been eligible for an upgrade for 11 months. For now, thanks, but no thanks. My three year old LG phone works just fine.


So, what was so wrong with Beta anyway?




42 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if this puts me behind or ahead of the curve.... I have an iPhone 4S, which has the smaller screen of 3,5 inches. I do not like the bigger screens on the newer models (too big for pocket, purse), so I have not even considered replacing it. Until now. The iPhone SE has a 4 inch screen. Yay! I can live with that. My 4S will be obsolete soon enough, so I have ordered the 5SE. I got on the Apple bandwagon years ago, and am so comfortable with it that I have not considered other brands.

    I remember the Beta vs VHS debate. We were on the losing side of that one too!

    I still like my iPod nano for listening to music while I am exercising.

    The big screen TV we bought 10 years ago was state of the art. Now, the comparison to the newer technology makes it look pretty pathetic! Not ready to trade up yet...

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    1. Betty resisted changing to a smartphone for at least 2 years, mainly because of their size. She is a very small woman (buys her clothes in the junior department) and no smartphone fits more than halfway into any pocket of any pants she owns. In fact, we bought breakage insurance for her because the odds are high the phone will fall to the ground or driveway at some point because it just is too big.

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    2. I recently read a genius idea: add to the pockets inside the pants! I'm sure if she is handy at sewing or even simple alterations, she could do it herself. Or consult an alterations shop to do this modification.

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    3. She actually thought of that!

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  2. Since our son Andrew is in IT for his work,I have been exposed to the "latest" all the time, and Andrew strives to keep us sort of up to date.Ken doesn't have much interest --he received an IPAD for his retirement gift and has learned to use it, and finally gave up his flip phone 2 summers ago!! I enjoy technology and would like to learn more and do more.. I enjoy Pandora, I stream radio stations on line--such variety available!! We stream movies and I love my Kindle, but it is a very old version and I cannot download books from the library so I only buy a book or two when we go on vacation, to avoid lugging large books around. I still enjoy the feel of a real book in hand most of the time and we use our library extensively!! (CULTURE PASS!!!!!) We keep our equipment a long long time. I'd love my own tablet or Ipad but as retirees, that is an unnecessary expense when the old laptop and Ken's ipad suffice. I expect things to move at an even quicker pace as time moves along.. and I am always hoping my "devices" will keep being supported!! Our phones are getting long in tooth but work just fine!!

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    1. Microsoft has forced us to upgrade a few times when they stopped supporting operating systems like XP and soon, Windows 7. Just when you are comfortable, things are improved "for your convenience."

      I love streaming movies, TV shows, and music. That is a change I really like.

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  3. I do believe that the advancement in these technologies is closely connected to consumerism. Advertising encourages us to buy the next latest and greatest. I'm constantly reminded by my son that the purpose of a cell phone is to have it on, to which I respond that if I'm not answering the land line at home, it means I have stuff going on elsewhere. I am not waiting for a heart. I enjoy not being available 24/7. Please leave a message!

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    1. I'm not waiting for a heart." I like that line. Being in touch 24/7 has its drawbacks. Do I really need to check my phone every 30 minutes while watching a movie or sitting on the back porch?

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  4. I love technology. I can say that after suffering through adjusting to my new laptop, which has windows 10 and word tried to suck the life out of me. After a great weekend conference, BAMC16, with the bloggers at midlife group I realized there is so much to keep up with, if you feel the need. Social media will help you get money making gigs for reviews, etc., which I really want, but I'm not joining Snapchat! I'm on FB, twitter and Instagram now and for me that's enough. I have no desire to do podcasts or live events and no one can make me, but I understand how they work. It might be good for keeping the mind sharp, doing all these networks, but it tends to overwhelm me. I'll do what I can to stay up to date but balanced.
    It is a new world out there! We have to embrace it or be left in the dust.
    b

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    1. The conference in Las Vegas sounds fascinating. Was it worth the trip? Was it mostly women bloggers? Vegas is only an hour flight from Phoenix so maybe I should consider it for next year.

      I remember you writing about your struggles converting to Windows 10, but I gather things have smoothed out.

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    2. Ha...just checked..the BAMC is for women only. Oh well.

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    3. Yes, it's a women's conference. But, you would have enjoyed it, too. I learned a lot about working with brands and met some truly amazing women writers/bloggers. I'm not sure I'll go next year, but I do want to attend a writing conference. We'll see.
      b

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    4. Ir would be nice if there was a similar conference for both sexes.

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  5. OMG, you are writing about my husband. His favorite response to technology is "what happened to the 20th century?" He still refuses to use a cell phone, does not understand how one can take pictures on a camera that does not need a roll of film, the computer and internet are a complete mystery and to this day, he cannot program anything digital (clocks, dvd players, even the microwave). He says he is lucky to have me for these things because technological progress has completely left him behind.

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    1. I don't dislike technology, I just seem to wait so long to adopt something that I am already late to the party.

      Now, I am resisting everyone who wants me to store everything on the cloud. What happens when that company goes out of business, loses its servers, or decides I have to pay much more for the privilege? I understand the advantages but don't like the loss of control that my computer hard drive and external backup drive give me.

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  6. Great post! I can’t imagine living without my Samsung S5. I love having a camera, video, calendar, memo pad, photo gallery, and so much more, all at my fingertips. I’m definitely behind the curve though in so many ways but I can boast about having a food blog which combines my love of cooking, and international travel. It makes me feel current :)My favorite TV is the little 14 inch box TV I got free from my neighbors a few months ago and sits on my kitchen counter. I love that after all the music technology of the past 20-30 years, vinyl albums have made a huge comeback.

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    1. Is vinyl making a comeback because it gives music companies something "new" to sell, or because music on that format sounds richer? I remember when the radio stations I was consulting switched from records to CDs. It was much better for the DJs, but the stations sounded tinny until our ears adapted.

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  7. The answer on vinyl's comeback is quality, surprisingly, since you would think that newer technology would be superior in many ways. Your observation on the tinny sound of CDs, and the lost quality due to things like compression on MP3s, has caused artists to want to make a change themselves to older, richer formats. I have a large collection still of original 70s albums which I will convert to digital format one of these days. Each was played only once when I recorded them to cassettes in years past. They are likely in pristine condition.

    I consider myself somewhere in-between on the technology curve. I love it but I won't embrace things just because they are the latest fad. One issue is also that I will not have anything to do with Apple or their monopoly. My phone is the Motorola Droid Turbo2 with the unbreakable screen (but not scratch-proof), my tablet is the Samsung Galaxy, my laptops are Windows 10-based, and my fitness watch is the Garmin Vivofit. Love them all and I can do anything I could do on Apple's products, without having to deal with Apple's costs or heavy-handedness.

    You asked if anyone made a choice that consumers steered away from. Well, I went with the Microsoft Zune music player years ago over the iPod. In many ways the Zune was far superior, especially when they came out with the HD version, but Apple's infrastructure won out.

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    1. Betty still has a dozen or so cassettes, and no way to play them. I remember when having a cassette player in a car was a big deal...no more commercials!

      Since I have written this post my 4 year old LG smartphone died. It couldn't upgrade to the latest Android operating system so several apps couldn't be updated for security. The battery was only holding a charge for 4-5 hours. So, I bought a Samsung S6. I am slowly figuring it out.

      I have never heard of a Zune player...maybe that was the problem!

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    2. The Zune hardware had about a six year run before MS gave up on it:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune

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    3. I'm with Chuck re albums. I once read an article by robbie Robertson where he said that musicians adore vinyl, but cds provide twice the capacity, were more portable and less likely to melt, warp and so on. This was just after the five cd set of the Last Waltz was released, as opposed to the original album.

      Me, I always liked vinyl and seriously considered heading out to get Purple Rain on vinyl in the morning.

      As for my phone, I do have a big Samsung note 4, but I never put a phone in my pocket, it stays in a wristlet case or my purse. I don't look at it all the time, but it is my lifeline: email, camera,banking, and more. I use my tablet and phone almost exclusively,unless I need to type a word doc or make a new thing on power point or the like.

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  8. I wanted to wait before commenting here to see what others had to say about this topic that is near to my heart. My entire corporate life was spent in consumer products so I do know a thing or two about that. At least for my company change was dictated by the consumer. If someone else came out with a new idea people will quickly drop what they have to get it. Yes, some of it is driven by the manufactures as Steve Jobs said "People don't know what they want until you give it to them".

    I could tell you that I started my engineering life with a slide rule but that would draw blank faces for most people. I have always been fast to adopt new things. In fact I think I was born twenty year too early as things just moved too slowly in the beginning for me.

    Not everything old is better than what is now new. Would you really rather drive your 1970s car than one made today? Remember those days 10 mpg and changing cars every 40,000 miles.

    Technology is making a better world for us. One thing that is moving too slow for me and many is a needed paradigm shift in batteries. When that happens I can see the very vulnerable power grid in our country disappear. Each house will have its own power source via solar and wind and other renewable sources. Cars will totally move away from fossil burning fuels that are heating our planet maybe beyond survivability. Self driving cars will mean WAY less accidents and totally unnecessary deaths and they would also be programed to obey speed limits.

    Technology can't happen fast enough for me....

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    1. Google is testing their self-drive cars in Chandler. We drove alongside one yesterday for about a mile. There was a woman behind the steering wheel but she didn't touch it. The car did what it was supposed to do very smoothly and with no obvious problems. That is the future and means fewer accidents caused by inattentive drivers.

      Batteries is an interesting subject. With longer life all sorts of things will work more efficiently. Like you, I am also quite concerned about our power grid and its lack of security. Life as we know it would end almost overnight if we suffered a major successful attack on that system.

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    2. RJ, like you, I have always liked to be near the front of the curve on technology. Years ago, when home computing was in its infancy, I worked with disabled non-speaking people. Since then, technology has greatly improved life for so many of them. I like your comment about batteries, and the potential that they hold for helping us to replace our dependency on fossil fuels. Similarly the Internet has created the most transformative social change in my lifetime.

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  9. Sometimes we forget that we're not supposed to work for technology. Technology is supposed to work for us. We just spent a lot of time and money converting all the old tapes of the kids into digital format on DVD and thumb drive. Why? Because pretty soon we won't be able to watch those old tapes anymore.

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    1. We have 20 very large photo albums that will need to be digitalized before they all fade away.

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  10. Self-drive cars scare me!! I don't even use cruise control!!!!

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    1. It was a little disconcerting to see the driver not driving the car down Cooper road.

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  11. Technology is supposed to be a tool. Not our master. So far, so good.

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    1. People who spend too much time with their face staring at a smartphone haven'the learned that lesson yet.

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  12. When we first got our vhs player about 1985, I was so concerned someone would break into our house and steal it that when we left town I boxed it up and took it with us. I still have one or two vhs tapes with no way to play them. I resisted a cell phone until I was caught in the 1999 tornado with no car to get home. I'm usually the last to get anything technological.
    Jeff in OK

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    1. Taking your VHS player with you...that's great. What a story.

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  13. I have usually kept up unintentionally with technology. Last November I decided to sell my iPhone and go back to a flip phone just to make calls on. I was looking to save some money and after a year I will have saved $444. So far I have not missed it enough to go back to one. My desktop is almost 6 years old and I have no intentions of buying a new one until this one breaks. I also sold my iPad and bought a laptop that I was going to use while traveling ... since I have not been traveling it is still used a lot and I like it better than the iPad.

    I still have VCR tapes of ballgames mostly. I also have a recorder that will turn that VCR into a DVD but I haven't found a DVD recorder yet that has good quality after taping. If I remember correctly the Beta did or was suppose to have better quality picture than the VCRs but I might be wrong on that.

    I do like all the information you can find online. I think though a few years ago I decided not to keep up with each new model. I am still surviving following that policy.

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    1. Beta was better quality but the record time was less, so the market opted for lower quality but more of it!

      Like you I had a machine that burned VHS on DVDs but the quality wasn't worth the effort. Since DVDs can be bought or movies streamed so easily I think I sold it on ebay.

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  14. Oh Bob, this is soooooo us! The hubs ran a topographical map for his architectural thesis on the ONE computer that existed on the university campus - programmed with a whole box of fast batch cards; it took the entire weekend to produce the map. I typed that thesis on an IBM Selectric - I was so happy with that X key that backed up and lifted the letter off the page! No more correcting fluid! Now I'm hoping that we live long enough to see an age when travel by car is 100% autonomous! Can't you imagine it? All of the reclaimed time, no accidents, no drunk drivers...just tell it where to take you. Hopefully it will happen in our lifetimes. Oh, and BTW, I have an entire shelf full of LPs that I can not part with!

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    1. I owned one of those typewriters with a spool of white correction tape. It worked pretty well, if I remember.

      Being the driver for most trips during our marriage, I think I might enjoy having the car drive while I get to enjoy the scenery.

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  15. About the Verizon phone: you're probably still paying a high monthly fee as a payment for the phone? If so, switch to the sim-only plan, where you only pay for your minutes and data, and no longer for buying the phone (as Verizon is pointing out that you've paid your dues on it).

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  16. Have you converted your LPs to digital so you can listen to them on your phone or a portable? We did that a few years ago for some stuff and it is great but there are issues. Very cool to do this. Love listening to the Beach Boys or Elvis stuff from long ago. Also have you used one of those portable Bose sound bars? It puts out big stereo sound from a little box linked to my cellphone and is totally portable so you can take it to the beach or outside on the patio.

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    1. All of my vinyl LPs were quite worn so at some point I got rid of them. But, being in the radio business, I had hundreds of CDs (probably close to 500) with everything from oldies and classic rock to new age, soft jazz and classical. Those are the ones I copied onto the Ipod.

      I have a few portable speakers for the Ipod and cell phone, one Bluetooth and another requires a cable. They are small enough to take on an RV trip but produce excellent sound.

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  17. Everyone is behind the curve on technology as the rate of advancement is so fast and fields are so broad now, I read new scientist now and again just for the 'wow' factor the beauty of all the choice there is around media and how to access it is that we all have more choice vinyl/stored/streamed that you can just pick the way(s) that suit you and don't worry about being up to date, just go for what suits. I love tablets and barely use computers now as they're so much simpler (for me) than 'managing' hardware/software upgrading

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    1. I still prefer sitting in front of my large, desktop monitor for any involved computer work. The Kindle, laptop and tablet don't get much use even though they do have some advantages.

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